NATO estimates Russia will soon have 30,000 troops in Belarus

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NATO estimates Russia will soon have 30,000 troops in Belarus

The head of NATO said Thursday that Russia will have up to 30,000 troops in Belarus in the coming weeks, further stoking fears of an invasion of Ukraine by Moscow.

The deployments for joint military exercises further allow Moscow to surround its western neighbor as the US and its allies warn of an attack that could come at any time.  

“Over the last days, we have seen a significant movement of Russian military forces into Belarus,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, according to Reuters. 

“This is the biggest Russia deployment since the Cold War, with an expected 30,000 combat troops,” Stoltenberg added, noting that Moscow is also moving Spetsnaz special operations forces, SU-35 fighter jets, S-400 air defense systems and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles. 

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia will deploy 30,000 troops into Belarus for drills.
According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia will deploy 30,000 troops into Belarus for drills.
REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A Russian soldier participating in joint exercises in Belarus.
A Russian soldier participating in joint exercises in Belarus.
Photo by HANDOUT/Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via Getty Images

Some have estimated that Russia already has more than 100,000 forces massed in its own territory along the border with Ukraine. 

Recent satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies show dozens of Russian military vehicles — along with artillery, troop tents and other equipment — stashed in Crimea, Belarus and several other training areas in Russia. 

Maxar Technologies warned that evidence of new troop housing and live-fire exercises may indicate that Russian forces “have increased their overall readiness level,” according to Axios.

A satellite image of Russian deployments in Belarus.
A satellite image of Russian deployments in Belarus.

Moscow has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine, likening the West’s concerns to “hysteria.”

Stoltenberg’s comments came one day after President Biden approved sending 3,000 troops to Germany, Poland and Romania, a move the Pentagon said was meant to send a “strong signal” to Russia that “NATO matters to the United States and it matters to our allies.”

Last week, the US and NATO rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that Ukraine be blocked from ever joining the Atlantic alliance. 

On Tuesday, Putin claimed the US “ignored” his country’s concerns and alleged that the Ukraine standoff was an “instrument” for the US to “contain Russia’s development.” 

“It can be done in different ways, such as pulling us into some armed conflict and then forcing their allies in Europe to enact those harsh sanctions against us that are being discussed today in the United States,” he said.

Stoltenberg claimed that this would be the biggest deployment of Russian troops since the Cold War.
Stoltenberg claimed that this would be the biggest deployment of Russian troops since the Cold War.
via REUTERS

The Biden administration has repeatedly pushed for diplomatic efforts to avert a potential invasion, but has threatened “severe” economic sanctions if Russia does move into Ukraine. 

Despite Western concerns, Ukraine has attempted to push a message of calm, accusing the US and European nations of creating a “panic.”

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